“Young people, when informed and empowered, when they realize that what they do truly makes a difference, can indeed change the world.”Jane Goodall
Working with young people is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life and to see the impact of the work firsthand. And it’s not just about making a difference in the moment – it’s about planting seeds that will grow and blossom over time.
So many people were an integral part of my basketball career, education, and professional development, and I am grateful for the guidance, wisdom, and support they provided along the way. From the very beginning, I was blessed throughout my life to have a strong support group within my family and community. Then, as I was older, coaches and mentors took the time to invest in me and my future. These relationships were crucial in helping me develop into the person I am today.
Now, it’s my turn to give back. And I can think of no greater gift than helping young people achieve their dreams.
It’s especially important to me to invest in the community that gave me so much. Atlanta, though vibrant, abundant in spirit and culture, and constantly evolving, has a vastly underserved population. Growing up in Southwest Atlanta I attended the same struggling schools, played on the same rundown courts, and dealt with the same limited resources as many of the young people I work with today. So I understand firsthand the challenges they face.
Fortunately, I also know what’s possible if you have access to the right resources and role models. So many people, especially in underserved areas, don’t have a chance to see beyond their city or circumstances, but if you don’t see things outside of your environment, then you don’t know what’s possible. If you don’t know accountants, lawyers, or doctors – if no one in your immediate family has gone to college, or is even thinking about college – then it’s difficult to imagine yourself in those shoes.
By offering these young people an opportunity to do things like tour colleges, go to plays, and meet successful professionals who look like them, we can help expand their perspectives.
That’s why I’m so passionate about working with young people – because I want to provide them with the same opportunities that were afforded to me. I want to show young people in Atlanta and other underserved communities there’s so much going on beyond our immediate existence. I want to give them hope and inspire them to dream big.
It’s important to continuously learn, evolve, and never give up on those dreams. But, in order to develop the fortitude needed to hustle forward, they must have support.
Through my work with the Future Foundation, I’ve been able to connect with young people in Atlanta and help them realize their potential. We provide afterschool and summer programs, corporate visits, and family support sessions that expose them to new opportunities and resources, and we give them the guidance they need to succeed.
Founded back in 2001, I’ve had the immense privilege of watching thousands of young people transform their lives through our programs. Every day, I see how our work is making a difference in the community, and it’s something I’m incredibly proud of.
Now, more than 20 years later, you can say it’s come full circle. So many of the young people We’ve worked with have grown into thriving, well-rounded adults and are now giving back to their communities in meaningful ways. Seeing the kind of cycle grow and expand is gratifying. It’s truly the ultimate gift that keeps on giving, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Over the years, I’ve found that mentoring is a two-way street. Young people are so full of energy and enthusiasm, and their fresh perspectives offer new ways of thinking about old challenges. I’ve learned just as much from them as they’ve learned from me, if not more.
We still have a lot of work to do and I’m excited to continue this powerful work – advocating for young athletes and providing education, enrichment, and resources to young people throughout Atlanta and beyond.
I know many people want to get involved and make a difference in their communities but don’t know how to start. I say just start. Get involved any way you can. It doesn’t have to be big – even the smallest act of kindness can change someone’s life for the better. We all have something special to offer, and we all have the power to make a difference.
Time commitments can look like volunteering in a classroom once a week, chaperoning field trips or helping with after school programs. You can also give your time by being a mentor. Even monetary donations can make a big difference – many programs rely on donations to function. But no matter how you choose to give, know that you are making a difference. You are investing in the future of our communities and our world. And that is something to be proud of.
One of the most important things you can do is to be consistent. You’ll likely find that many young people you work with deal with a lot of uncertainty in their lives, and they need to know that there are people who care about them and will be there for them, no matter what.
Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun! Working with young people can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Seeing them grow and learn is one of the best parts of the work.